COVID-19 Life: Brain Change Takes Time

Anne Rulo - COVID-19 Life: Brain Change Takes Time

Earlier this week I looked at my son doing work on the iPad, my daughter playing in the living room and overheard my husband on a Zoom meeting and noticed that it felt almost…familiar. Not normal yet, but certainly familiar. I have to admit, the sensation was refreshing.

Since all these changes happened in our lives, I have felt a little “off”. Simply the process of waking up or reading the news was like a weird dream and our family rhythm has been out of sync. Common, everyday tasks seem to require more energy than usual. And, no matter how hard I try to adjust, I just can’t seem to get this new normal figured out as quickly as I would like. I was starting to get kind of frustrated with myself for not adapting as quickly as I thought I “should”, that is, until high school biology came rushing back to me.

Remember high school biology? That’s where we learned about homeostasis.

Yep, homeostasis. This concept is at least part of the very normal reason why so many of us have been experiencing a delay or disorientation in our adjustment to COVID-19 life. In fact, it’s part of the reason why, in general, we often have a hard time with change. You see, the basic design of our body is to keep us in homeostasis. Every system is designed to keep us at a set point; temperature, chemistry, balance, etc. And, our brains operate in a similar way. So, those neural pathways we previously had in place for our daily routines, work, and family patterns? They were well established, and we can’t change them instantly. Kinda’ like wearing a new path in your yard, it takes a while for the routes we were taking to “grow over” and for the new one to wear in. In fact, depending on which studies you read, it takes about 10,000 repetitions or a couple of months to form a new neural pathway for thought, routine or behavior. In short, we cannot force our brains to change faster than they are designed to.

So, what does all this have to do with our current situation? It means we can relax a bit and be patient. Rather than trying to force ourselves to feel comfortable in this new reality, we can chill out for a second and trust that our brains, our emotions, our behaviors, and even our family dynamics will get there eventually, as they are designed to. We need to remind ourselves that even if we aren’t actively trying every moment to adjust to COVID-19 life, the very nature of our different circumstances will continue to “encourage” our brains and bodies to adapt. Rather than being frustrated when we aren’t seeing measurable progress, we can be kind to ourselves and remember that our brains and our bodies are trying the best they know how and they will get us there eventually.

Try not to push too hard friends. Honor your design and take it easy on yourself. We really are getting there and we are going to notice it more and more as the days go on.

*For anyone who is looking for a more in-depth (and exceptional might I add) read on how our brains respond to crisis please check out Aundi Kolber’s recent release “Try Softer”. Her words are a timely, well-researched and helpful resource right now.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

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